National Catholic Register



BY Jim Cosgrove

June 20-26, 1999 Issue | Posted 6/20/99 at 2:00 PM


How Virtues Became ‘Interactive Skills’

THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 1—“The nation's public schools, which taught the Bible routinely for generations but retreated from explicitly moral education in the individual-rights boom of the 1960s, are under growing pressure to offer ethics instruction as a way to promote safe learning free of harassment,” said education writer Ethan Bronner.

He reported that all 50 states have some form of character education being offered or under consideration, often using a mix of private and public money.

Interestingly, “objections about the nature of public moral education used to come most often from liberals who objected to the conservative Christian bent they detected,” said Bronner. But Columbia University's Jay Heubert has come to notice that conservatives have begun to complain in recent years about the promotion of such ideas as feminism and one-world government.

In order to escape criticism, educators seem content to sacrifice honesty. Bonner reported that a public school in La Jolla, Calif., decided not to refer to “values” or “virtues” in their character education program because those words are “too shaded by religion and open to objection by parents. So the program is called ‘interactive skills.’ No one complained.”

Academia Returning to Objective Truth?

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 4—It's not so surprising that statistics say a majority of modern philosophers reject any notion of objective truth about morality and such matters as the existence of God. But it probably did shock many to read a Journal editorial that announced a similar development in the field of history and other branches of the liberal arts.

The Journal said that contemporary historians, “rejecting the existence of what even Marxists recognize as objective fact,” dismiss much of what passes for history as coming to us “through the filters of gender, class and race consciousness.”

But the news is not all bad. The editorial is dedicated to announcing the existence of new scholarly organizations that are taking on the politically correct establishments in their respective fields. A newly formed group, known simply as The Historical Society, had hoped to attract perhaps 500 members by now, but already boasts 1,200 members. The group is “dedicated to the proposition that its discipline remains capable of agreeing on standards of evidence and holding civil debate.”

The Historical Society itself was inspired by a group with similar concerns about literature: the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, which has just published the first issue of its magazine, Literary Imagination. Editor Sarah Spence told the Augusta Chronicle that the organization is not afraid to admit that “a lot of beautiful poetry was written by dead white men.”

Still another group, the Association for Art History, states its purpose as promoting the study of art “free of jargon, ephemeral ideology and doctrinal rigidity.”

Neglected Rural School Districts

USA TODAY, June 2—A computer-assisted analysis by the national newspaper found that, at a time when school construction is a booming $15 billion-a-year business, rural public school districts have been half as likely to build new schools as their city and suburban counterparts.

“Although decaying urban schools have grabbed the most attention — and government studies show that they are in the worst shape — the data suggests that those districts have an easier time raising the tax money needed to build new schools or to substantially renovate old ones,” said staff writers Anthony DeBarros and Tamara Henry. “Rural districts with lower property values are becoming separate and unequal outposts of peeling paint and neglect.”

Gary Keep, a member of a firm that designs new schools, said in the article, “There's a trend in those districts to spend less.” He explained: “Their taxes are lower, and their expectations are lower and they don't feel a need to provide at the level suburban districts do.”